Quality

The Tai Chi form has taught me many things that can also be applied to life, but this morning as my eyes opened the idea of quality came to mind.

In the form, quality can take the form of intention.

Intention in the action you are currently performing, an elbow strike, an arm bar, a strike to the solar plexus. These concepts are brought to the form to make sure that your mind is completely present with every moment which brings the “quality” of awareness to your movement.

This idea aligns your mind, energy body, and physical body in the movements. Visibly this shows up as what could be called fullness or completeness in each step, making the form “pleasant” to watch to outsiders with no clear indication as to why.

This same idea can be applied with life.

There is a quality in every move we make, every action we take and it presents itself invisibly to all those around us and people around us react to it. Often unconsciously (though some are sensitive enough to be aware of it).

That quality is what attracts or repels the things around us. It creates the very world in which we live.

What intention do you bring while making meals?

What about when you walk to the grocery store?

How about when you interact with someone who cut you off? or deal with that angry neighbor he always scowls at you?

Your intention is not invisible, I know we like to think our inner most thoughts are, but have you ever stopped to think how those unconscious thoughts have manifested around you? What type of people it has attracted to you?

Or, here is a doozy, what kind of drama  has it created in your life?

 

Practice your intention. Start small, one tiny thing in the morning.

Like pouring your cereal, what is that cereal providing? Are you angry that the cereal is the only thing you have to eat? Are you only eating because you are told you HAVE to eat breakfast? Do you wish you were eating something else?

Try being present with what is in front of you.

Pick the cereal, with the intention of enjoying it.

Pour the cereal, with the intention of filling the space of the bowl.

Grab the milk, with the intention of covering the cereal.

Pour the milk, with the intention of wetting the cereal.

Eat the cereal, with the intention of of being nourished with energy for the day. Energy that will be transmuted in to whatever action you are to be performing.

Action, that will contain trace amounts of the intention of the energy used to perform it.

 

Everything is connected and compounds what came before it. Accumulate your positive reality around you a single grain at a time.

Eventually, you will have a mountain.

quality-approved

Quality Control Approved

Cardboard in the Rain

I grew up out in the country, what I consider a farm.

Back when I was around 11 or 12,  we used to burn all of our paper waste out in “The Burn Barrel” out in the front yard.

Once or twice, we went out to the old rusted trash can, poured some gas on its contents and set fire to all the newspaper, garbage mail, wood  and whatever else got collected during the week.

One particular week, we had bought some large appliance, either a refrigerator or dishwasher I’m not really sure at this point, but, like all paper waste, the box was moved out by the burn barrel once it had been emptied.

I could see the burn barrel from the front window and next to it, that box. Sitting in the grass awaiting its fate.

One day it started to rain, as it often did in Washington, and for some reason I was compelled to watch the box as the rain fell upon it. I felt empathy for the box, sitting out there in the rain by itself. It had been created and then put to use as a protector of whatever it held and was now discarded and forgotten awaiting its fiery doom.

As I stared at this box, I was suddenly compelled to go outside to the box and climb in it. It was still rather intact and the water had not yet penetrated the outer shell of cardboard, so the inside was nice and dry.

I crawled in, closed the lid behind me and laid down.

It was here that I experienced my first moment of complete peace and silence in my mind.

My senses were completely overwhelmed, the smell of wet cardboard, grass, and rain filled my nose.

The sound of the rain on the cardboard all around me filled my ears with a ryhtmic echoing, each drop layering on top of the last in an endless beat.

My eyes closed almost immediately as I was taken away from every thought in my head and absorbed directly in to the present moment.

I’m not sure how long I laid inside that box. Could have been just a minute, or could have been an hour. It was a timeless vortex.

Eventually, the water started to come through and I was brought back to myself. I left the cardboard box in the rain and helped to burn it several days later.

I had tried to go back after it had dried, but it was not the same.

The cardboard had warped and it had started to collapse. The structure had been compromised in every way.The sounds of the rain were no longer crisp, but muted and dull. Absorbed through the softened paper around it. No longer echoing in that transcendent beat that melted me.

I have had many boxes sense then. Of all shapes, sizes, and forms. Each with a lesson, each with a world it has shown me until its structure melted and it no longer was able to sustain the doorway it once had.

I have departed each box with great sorrow, thankful for what it has taught me, yet sad that what I had experienced will now just become a memory, destined to dull as the next one forms.

My hope is that one day, I will no longer need a box.

That the rain will fall directly on my skin and create that unfathomable rhythm within me and I will become own portal to the present.

I will be able to create my own window and that although my structure will change, the sounds will not loose their crispness.

They will only change their pitch.

 

 cardboardintherain

The Dream Machine

I have been having crazy dreams lately.

The more I pay attention to my dreams the more involved they get. Im not talking about like a 5 minute random dream where all this crazy shit happens. I am talking about all three lord of the rings extended edition. A full story arc as well as continuing characters following a continuing story line.

I checked my facebook memories and apparently 5 years ago today I wrote;

What does it mean when you have episodic dreams everynight, and everytime you hit the snooze button you fall right back in to them where you left off… Kind of makes me not want to wake up…”

How is that for crazy? Maybe its something to do with the moon or something…Or maybe its because I have been meditating more and writing down my dreams… Most likely I am completely clueless.

That said, lets talk about my practice for a bit. Seems like it has been a while since I have mentioned what I am working on.

 

The Chakra class has introduces a new type of meditation that I have added to my weekly practice. I have been alternating between the standing Zhan Zhuang meditation and the sitting “Rooted” Meditation through the week and after each session I have been writing down what I experienced and any thoughts that come up and over all it has been helping me to process quite a bit.

It is pretty enjoyable to mix things up like that, it has really opened my eyes to the possibilities of meditation and that it has the potential to have limitless applications or approaches. The two forms have increased my awareness of different areas of my body and where I hold tension, as a result I have been conscious of a deeper level of tension I hold in my body. Through breath I am able to relax it and some of the aches I had before now melt away.

We have finished the 83 Form in class, it is still extremely rough for me, but none the less the whole thing is locked away in the brain somewhere. I, regrettably, have not been practicing as much as I would like in the mornings so the routine is kind of gnarled in several areas. It seems like the on practice I am able to get in lately is practicing in my head at bus stops or when I am cooking dinner.

Train surfing has become ridiculously easy. I have even started doing it on crowded trains with no worry of running in to anyone anymore. Using a forward horse stance is still a little dodgy, but I picked up a fix for a bad habit of raising my kua in the forward stance which has really helped me stabilize it more and allowed my to stand a little more solid.

Played a game of ping pong the other day, I usually get pretty caught up with it once the points start going and I start to get uprooted. This game was different though, I was able to stay rooted and relaxed and was able to return balls and react quickly. I sometimes went too far on the relaxed side and didnt go for the ball at all… but gotta find that balance right? So I think I may start to use that as a training bit for push hands.

Meditation and kua work have really leveled up the last several weeks. I feel a little more aware of my hips and dantian which is allowing me to correct a little more accurately.

Oddly, my awareness of the dantian has shifted locations, or rather maybe its just a new area of numbness. Since I have been able to feel my hips and waist more, there is an area deeper in my core that has no awareness what so ever. Maybe that’s the dantian? Or maybe it’s just the next area that needs to wake up.

One day maybe the picture will be complete…but until then, onward!

 

Three-Dantiens-207x300

 

 

 

Old Habits are Dying too Easy

Words are not coming easy this morning.

I know I have a lot to say, or ask, yet the questions do not come out. They just exist is the hazy fog of confusion. Confusion that mostly just surrounds my daily life.

I extract general ideas on how to proceed with things;

“Oh if I just keep practicing my circles, I will find my dantian.”

“If I meditate everyday, I will eventually relax in push hands.”

“If I keep my mind on my dantian, it will eventually form.”

That’s all well and good, but what am I doing? How does this affect me? Whats the point?

Every layer I can feel get peeled back, a thicker layer with deeper roots takes its place. On top of that a whole new perspective is exposed that needs to be explored and understood before progressing. A different way to view things, or new tools in which deal with something that was held back before.

For example, after that Chakra Healing course, I now have to actually deal with my emotions.

What a massive pain in the ass.

I sit here and have to actually talk things out or express them in a healthy way in order to put my mind at ease so I can progress through the day. Whether its an uncomfortable situation that comes up from my past, or an action taken by someone that doesn’t sit well with me. Its got to be put out there or it just cakes over all my mental processes and gums up the whole system.

So annoying actually being conscious of where my issues are and feeling the cleansing relief of actually dealing with them. It makes it impossible to go back to old habits.

Curse you self care, for no longer allowing me to binge watch netflix or drink for days on end without looking deeper in to the deeper reason why.

No one said you could come in here and muck with my self destructive system.

 

erosion

One with the Earth

I find it much easier to stand while meditating.

I have been taking a course that is designed to allow a deeper understanding of yourself through increased awareness of the chakras and the emotional charges inside them. One of the major tools of this course is a guided meditation introduced in a standard sitting position. A position that is not one that my hips and lower back relax into easily. Regardless, I have been trying to settle into it without much luck.

As the first imagery is introduced I am instantly met with resistance. My mind gets stuck in the hips and back as they fight to find a relaxed position. The imagery in particular is one of rooting. Sprouting roots from my feet and perineum (root chakra) and allowing them to penetrate deep in to the center of the earth creating a link between me and the planet. Needless to say, my roots don’t go very far.

So I decided to try something different. Yesterday I went back to standing and was immediately greeted with a different experience.

I started at the train stop in the middle of the street. As I took a couple of breaths and let my mind sink to my feet, the world around me instantly became muted and distant. I could feel my body melt downwards and my stress just liquefy and flow down in to my feet, which immediately got a very physical pulsing sensation in the arches. I felt connected to the earth, as if my lower half and the earth were one piece and it would take a massive force to move me from my spot and I hadnt even begun to try to root yet.

To put this to the test, I decided to continue on the train when it got there (only partly due to there being no seats).

I stood in between the doors as I got on and took my stance.

Again, I was immediately shown that same grounded feeling. This time, however ,I was starting to notice a distinct tingling in my dantian and my intention would pass through it. Kind of like the feeling associated with “getting the chills” but localized to a particular area.

I was solid, the train and me were one. The normal turns and shifts that would cause me to shift my feet were nothing more than a tiny ripple, diffusing in to the ballistics gel of my body. It was by far the most grounded I have ever been on the train and it lasted until I hit the subway where I then took the rest of the ride to write down my experience.

Structurally and mentally that was the most grounded I had become, however, the guided meditation itself had its issues. The roots still have trouble getting deeper than a couple feet and moving on to the other stages gets muddy and lost at times. So, there is still a lot to work towards, but these little victories help me know that I am making progress.

I am going to continue experimenting with different postures, the fact that some are more difficult just tells me I still have things to work on and I look forward to discovering what they are.

Alex_Grey-Spiritual_Energy1

Finding Time

It’s next to impossible to find time if you never make the time.

So how do you get yourself to make it?

The motivation is somewhere in there, it pops up late afternoon in the most inconvenient time, but for some reason your body is lead and your limbs don’t seem to respond to your brain anymore. What is it that blocks you…. Some imaginary force? Well, completely imaginary actually, right up there in the brain with the rest of it.

Is that the ego?

Convincing you, “its better to just lay here and soak up the bliss of the morning fog for just a couple more minutes.”

Or, perhaps, it is a valid response to the stress and exhaustion from several days of hard work and emotional turmoil, in which case, maybe you should be taking it easy?

The only person that can truly know you, is you. As the saying goes, “Know thyself”

I happen to think that mental battle, that layer of exhaustion, the ego, whatever you want to call it, needs to be better understood in order to know what it is really coming from. Much like when training your physical body, you must know the difference between good pain and bad pain. Is that pain in your leg just muscle ache caused by the intense workout from yesterday, or is it in fact an early indication of an injury that could cause serious harm.

Both of these indicators need to be paid heed, but, while one requires rest and treatment, or even perhaps adjustment of technique. The other just requires a different set of exercises or a longer warm-up.

Its hard to know which one is which, the only way to tell is through listening, experience, and paying attention to everything that is happening internally. Your mind, your body, your spirit. They are speaking and through the mere intention of listening, your will begin to hear.

That should be your guide, only you can really know yourself and the games your mind will play.FB_IMG_1444706583738

Something Is Knocking

It’s been an interesting weekend in the tai chi saddle.

Saturday was the full 9 hour day.

A bit taxing after resting all week to get over this stomach thing and I was definitely more tired than usual during classes. Nothing that wasnt to be expected however, the weird thing about saturday is that I had no connection to my body at all. Usually I get feedback from my body informing me the quality of my movement, but saturday it just felt like I was pulling levers on a backhoe. It was extremely frustrating. I was really regretting having taken the whole week off, all the time between practice I was convinced set me back and there was no telling when I would get back to where I was.

Then sunday came, sunday is the primordial qigong class, a much deeper meditative class focused on cleansing the energy body and gathering\circulating chi through the system.

For the first thirty minutes I had the same sense, zero feedback and couldn’t tell how I was moving through any of the exercises. I got tired of wondering why, so I just let my imagination go. I just let my mind explore the idea of a ball of energy moving around and through my system.

Oh right, should have been doing to begin with.

For the next half hour there still wasn’t any feedback from the body, but the imagery was extremely fun. It kept stealing me away from following the rest of class and I ended up being a little behind. No big deal though :).

It wasn’t until about a minute into the 20 minute standing meditation that I got really really deep.

At first, I became aware of the nagging thought I had been holding back and trying to keep myself from thinking about. It was about all the things I want to write in my blog and how I am going to write them. It has been a couple days since I have written and I guess I still have a lot I want to write down… but regardless my mind kept wanting to go there and I fought it to “focus” on practice. It clearly wasn’t helping.

A little voice deep inside the static of my mind said softly, ”Invite it for dinner. Pour it a drink and listen to its story.”

So, that’s what I did.

Instantly, I was transported in to my center, it was actually kind of a dizzying with how fast it was. I felt deeper than I have been before, but maybe it was just because the transition was so abrupt. Either way, I was digging it and I was fully in my body again.

My arms were out over my dantian resting on the little imaginary chi support pegs. The feeling from the other day was already there, my arms and shoulders were relaxed yet extended. A moment after I was “transported”, I began to have the distinct feeling that my wrists were actually physically being support by something. Not like before, it wasn’t an energetic feeling… there was distinct pressure on the underside of my wrists, some would say an accumulation of chi. Well… this is pretty bad ass, I thought to myself.

So I played with it a little.

My thought process went a little like this:

“Ok, so. If there are pegs extending from my center supporting my wrists. That means those pegs can be moved, they have a base and that base can be shifted, which in turn would move my wrists.”

So, I rotated that base forward. My arms went right along with it, extending farther forward yet still no muscles in my arms were activated. They were still just resting on those pegs.

“Ok, “ I thought “ So if that’s the case the pegs can also be lengthened.”

So, I lengthened them. Just like before the arms up with no muscle activation in the shoulders or arms….

Right about then came the soft “Gong”. The first of three that signify the end of meditation.

Its just never quite long enough is it.

But the feeling stayed with me in to the next class. I was asked to lead warmups, usually not a problem, but normalIy I havent slipped so deep in to myself that I forget what I am supposed to be doing.

It was a struggle to remember what moves came next, I kept falling deep in to each excersize and losing track of where we were. Luckily there was another certificate student there to remind me what was next as my eyes shot open.

The most of the rest of class just continued on like this. It was great, I was fully integrated again. Moving from the center and feeling the body beneath me again.

But then calamity struck.

I played a little fast and loose the night before out at the beach. Having a good time with friends… but maybe pushing my stomach a bit to far too fast, eating one too many sausages…or probably just shouldn’t have had that pabst blue ribbon. Relaxing for the day was done.

Whelp, maybe next time.

In short, that one little thought in my head I kept locked away, not allowing myself to think of it because I felt it wasn’t part of practice, was actually the key to allowing myself to fall back in to it.

I guess that means in order to go forward, I have to relax everything, even the barriers between unpleasant thoughts and memories. Relax and integrate them. Listen to their stories.

Saturdays Practice:

  • 1.5 hours dynamic qigong
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
  • 2 hours push hands

Sundays Practice:

  • 1.5 hours primordial qigong
  • 1.5 hours beginning tai chi
    • Interrupted by some stomach issues. Time to go to a medical doctor

The Gasey Dragon

I took the last several days off from classes to allow my stomach to settle down. The pain\discomfort has been mostly centralized right over my lower dantian which makes it pretty painful when trying to move FROM the dantian. When I attempted to practice it ended up just making me really dizzy and nauseous causing me to have to leave class and lay down.

So, instead of doing the form or qigong this week, my main focus has been on my meditation. The quiet relaxation seems to help my stomach considerably in the morning and I get longer sessions in since I am not fitting in the forms as well. I have been getting full half hour sessions in this week, long enough to settle the mind into the dantian and settle in to deep relaxation of the muscles to allow for healing.

Today, I got a feeling that has been described to me for a while now but has only been a rough idea in my head up until now.

There is a mental practice taught when teaching the standing meditation postures. It is meant to help relax the shoulders and back and help the muscles release into the posture so that the muscles themselves aren’t holding the posture. One of these concepts is to imagine that your wrists are resting on a pole that extends out and up from your lower dantian.

Its an odd sensation to have, the pressure, or intention, in my arms faded away and went in to the inside of my wrists. I literally felt like there was something they were resting on. The feeling didn’t last too long, but it left me feeling surprised yet again how different thoughts allow you to change way your body is moving.

These can lead the body into different states of relaxation, tension or even change how the body moves all together. That’s why it is so important to understand the intention and the mechanics behind every movement. If a concept is held differently in the head than what is actually happening it can invalidate the entire movement or even cause injury just because the idea of how your body moves that is different from reality.

Last couple days practice:

  • 30 minutes standing meditation
  • Lots of laying down and relaxing

Standing Meditation posture:

LamKamChuen

kittyZuanZhuang

The Hunger Games

Hunger is probably my biggest nemesis when it comes to distraction. As soon as the hunger drum strikes with that deep empty sound, all abstract and logical thought drains out of me faster than water out of a busted dam.

Waking up hungry is even worse, it puts me in a state of unfocused zombie like wandering, much like from night of the living dead.I find myself unsure of what to do with myself or how to direct myself into what my morning routine is.

That friends, is where I find myself this morning.

I tried to eat first thing, but didn’t have much in the kitchen that wasn’t going to take some time to cook. Boiled eggs is where I settled, so I put some water on the burner to boil. While that did its thing that water on a burner does, I began practicing the 83 form.

I was focusing on the part of the 83 I had gone over yesterday in a private lesson, where I realized that I was waaaay behind the rest of the class and my ability to learn new moves has been reduced to a trudge through a muddy marsh.

I am about 10 moves behind from the rest of the class, due to assorted absences and teaching other students the 24, work getting in the way, etc, etc…  Needless to say, the feeling that I have been slacking is acutely present in me today and compounded by the fact that my brain is fuzzy with hunger and exhaustion from the late night at work, frustration abounds.

The 83 this morning was a struggle to focus on. To say the least.

I would go through the moves once with great difficulty, stuttering as I went seeming to forget what the next move was until my mind cleared a little. At the end of the moves my mind would immediately wander somewhere else, usually back to my stomach and the eggs that were still cooking. This went on for 7 more times and it didn’t get much easier.

Even after the eggs were shoved in to my face my brain still had the after effects. I had reached the dreaded hunger zone where it left a residual after effect of general lethargy and confusion. The danger zone as it were.

The effect lasts quite some time unfortunately, so I figured I would meditate instead of trying to go into the silk reeling exercises I really wanted to do.

My original goal this morning was to go for a full 30 minutes however, my mind had other intentions.

My thoughts were so scattered and unmanageable that it was all I could do to just focus on sending waves of relaxation through my body. Sections of my body were not cooperating however, areas that were just relaxed would tense up again as soon as the intention left the area and it was as if they stopped existing at times. Causing me to really breath deep and relax again just so I could sense the muscles again.

I maybe had about 5 minutes of actual mediation before my brain completely gave up on me. Ending my meditation at about 26 minutes. Not a bad session, but it was certainly an uphill battle the whole way.

So, I decided to just write the experience down while it was fresh in my mind. There are days like this, it happens, it’s just kind of the way it is. There is so little time in the day to do everything I desire to do. I pack my day so full that the offset of one thing just screws up the timeline for the rest of the week. Its really hard for me to accept that at times.

Part of me wishes I was kind of a robot, so I could just plow through all the things I want to learn and do. Not having to worry about balancing all my different systems and aspects of my personality in a way that allows me to stay energized.

But, i’m not, and TBH its kind of beautiful when you can get to the point where you achieve an understanding of how you are. When you start to realize when to eat, what you should eat, the types of activities that drain you, the people that drain you, the people that energize you, the places you feel at home and the cultivation of it all.

Those to me are the true purposes of my training and my time here on this earth, to learn the balance of the life I have around me and truly be in it at every moment not missing a beat because I truly see and feel what is going on and who I am.

Todays practice:

  • 26 minutes Zhan Zuang Meditation
  • section of the 83 7x
  • 1.5 hours dynamic qigong (Hopefully)

Its All Part of the Same River

None of my meditation sessions are ever the same. Each one has its unique obstacles I must overcome as well as its own lessons to be learned. Sometimes I am able to get past the roadblocks, and sometimes I have to stop and come back later.

However, often times my meditation does follow a generally similar path.

After about five minutes my ego kicks in, trying to convince me I dont have the time to meditate right now, or any of the other million excuses. I try to breathe in to this. Trying to allow my consciousness to relax. Much like my muscles, which kick in later, my ego is tensing up trying to hold on to its grip of the world.

Breath in to the dantian, through the nose and out the mouth.

At about the 15 minute mark, my arms start to ache. I employ a similar tactic, though this time each breath I imagine a ripple of intention, much like ripples in a pond after dropping in a stone, passing from the head down through the rest of the body. It moves slowly, and everything it passes through is sent to relax. I continue this process until I feel the body no longer straining to maintain its standing posture.

About the 25 minute mark I hit another barrier. Its still a relatively new one, so it is kind of hard to describe. In this point of the meditation, I am usually working on allowing my consciousness to sink in to my dantian. More often than not, it is resting somewhere between my third eye and my heart chakra. It just kind of bounces between there throughout meditation.

But lately, there have been moments where it sinks all the way to my dantian, it never lasts long, but it definitely stops by for a visit.

It is most closely related with a level of relaxation that is pretty rare for me to achieve. My body is just floating, and my mind, though still mostly in my head, is loosely aware of my dantian. Usually I imagine a little rubber ball just making circles around it and sometimes find myself talking to it….asking how it’s doing and just seeing if it talks back :D.

So this barrier I seem to sense is the doorway into moving more in to my dantian. It’s like my intention is knocking on a door…or a wall to find the places in between the studs where it can get through the Sheetrock. Or maybe….finding an old ventilation shaft it can sneak into before the guards find it.

Like all the other roadblocks, I have a sneaking suspicion that the key will be to relax more. But finding the WAY to relax will be the difficult part. As with everything, the more attention I pay to it, the more little subtleties I overlooked become apparent.

Its a process that I am told never stops, though it may slow down at times.

There will always a new aspect or perspective to be gained in this practice. I have a long way to go, but if discovery is always going to be this fun, I sure am not going to stop :).

Today’s practice:

  • 35 min standing meditation
  • 1 hour private lesson
    – mostly went over the first move of the 24
  • 45 minutes qigong
  • 30 min teaching the opening move

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